Month: February 2016

Take a Leap? The Leap Year Cocktail

I’m going to be stunningly original here – a Leap Year cocktail on February 29th! I do love the idea of Leap Day, that it’s a day to do things you might not normally do, but as with so many things in life, it’s mostly great because it reminds me of a great Frasier episode, which features this spectacular Daphne moment: “Tell me the truth. Is it as bad as I think it is?” “How… bad… do you think it is?” Taking a leap: not always the best idea? But what harm can we come to with this rather gentle cocktail? A simple concoction, invented by Harry Craddock at the Savoy to celebrate the occasion in 1928, it’s a bittersweet blend of gin, sweet vermouth, orange liqueur, and a hint of lemon juice. Thanks to The Kitchn for the recipe: Ingredients: 2 oz gin 3/4 oz orange liqueur (I used Cointreau) 1/2 oz sweet vermouth Dash of lemon juice Shake (or stir, since there’s so little lemon juice) over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Twist a …

Cocktail of the week no. 9: the Sazerac

It’s back to the classics this week, with an old standard from New Orleans. The Sazerac has been around since the mid-19th century, and originated as a cognac drink. Not too long after, the spirit changed to whisky when cognac became difficult to obtain after the outbreak of phylloxera, a vine-eating parasite, swept through France’s vineyards. As with many of these classic cocktails, there’s quite a bit of debate about how exactly to make it: should you add Angostura bitters along with the Peychaud’s? Should you use absinthe, or Herbsaint, or Pernod? Should you leave the absinthe in the glass, or tip it out? Is it ever acceptable to drop the lemon peel in the drink? As usual, since I’m just learning, I’ve stuck to the most traditional version I can find: no Angostura, yes absinthe, lemon peel firmly outside the drink. Something about the combination of rye, medicinal Peychaud’s and strong absinthe sounds pretty odd on paper, but the finished product is delightful. Absinthe so easily overpowers other spirits, but here the rinse on the …

Seasonal citrus again: blood orange and rosemary mocktail

Still on a blood orange kick over here – I cannot get enough of this winter citrus, and as I’m starting to feel the first stirrings of spring, I’m trying to use it as much as I can. This time I used it to make a mocktail – not everyone wants to drink all the time. (Is mocktail the worst word ever? Virgin cocktail does not sound much better.) I wanted something fresh but herbal, and I used a recipe I found on this blog, which is an awesome resource I’d never come across before. As well as juicing about a million blood oranges for this, I also made a rather exciting rosemary simple syrup. The two combined to make a lovely sweet/sour refreshing drink, topped off with soda water. As the recipe originally states, you can easily add vodka (or gin) to this to make an actual drink. To make the simple syrup: Boil one cup of water and one cup of sugar in a small saucepan. Add in about four sprigs of rosemary and …

Cocktail Matching: Impressionists and a Water Lily Cocktail

Increasingly I find myself wanting to make cocktails to go with the things I enjoy doing. Currently I’m longing for spring, squinting up at trees to see if there are any leaves sprouting and peering at crocuses in the grass. In lieu of spring itself (it’s still COLD in London), I went to see the Royal Academy’s gorgeous ‘Painting the Modern Garden’ exhibition. It’s such a beautiful collection of paintings, from Monet’s huge, mournful late waterlily works, to some bright, vivid Expressionist ‘Avant-Gardens.’ There was no photography allowed inside, but here are some images of some of my favourite paintings to try and sum the experience up. If I could live inside any exhibition, I think it would be this one – it was such a riot of colour, bursting with flowers and sunshine, yet it was serene and gentle at the same time. I enjoyed this exhibition so much, and I wanted to make a cocktail that was colourful, fresh, and floral to go with it. Enter the very conveniently named Water Lily (thank you Saveur apparently an …

Cocktail of the week no.7: the Manhattan

For this week’s cocktail, I’m going for a real classic – the Manhattan. It’s a super simple cocktail along the lines of a Martini – mainly just spirit and vermouth. Here it’s whisky (preferably rye) and sweet vermouth, with some Angostura bitters thrown in. There’s no great certainty about where or when the Manhattan originated, but it seems safe to say that it was in New York in the latter half of the 19th century. I’m amazed at the amount of variation possible with a Manhattan – make it with all sweet vermouth, or half sweet and half dry vermouth (a Perfect Manhattan), make a brandy Manhattan, a Cuban Manhattan (with dark rum), a Tijuana Manhattan (with tequila), a Rob Roy (with Scotch instead of rye). I made mine with a ratio of 2:1 whiskey to vermouth, but the recipe in The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks suggests a 5:1 ratio (yikes). For some variations right here on WordPress, Cocktail Monologue has begun a series of really interesting-looking ‘Manhattan Mondays.’ I’ve stuck to my beloved Serious Eats for the recipe, …

Chinese New Year Cocktail 2: Lapsang Souchong Old Fashioned

So this is the second of my Chinese New Year-inspired tea cocktails, also taken from the Rare Tea Company website. It builds on the character of a whisky old-fashioned, but adds Lapsang Souchong tea, along with vermouth and honey syrup in place of the sugar. This one, I LOVE. The intense woody smokiness of Lapsang is just amazing with the bourbon. It doesn’t get overpowered in the way the delicate jasmine tea did in my first tea cocktail. Quite the opposite. This drink makes me feel like I should be sitting in a leather armchair in a private club, smoking a pipe and talking as men do. Preferably in this episode of Frasier: Not very Chinese New Year-related, but still, it’s a great drink! (Soon I will make a Tuxedo cocktail in honour of Frasier. I might also start putting a Frasier clip in every post.) Ingredients: 60 ml (2 oz) Lapsang Souchong tea (infused and chilled) 60 ml (2 oz) bourbon 20 ml (1/3 oz) sweet vermouth 1 tsp honey syrup (half honey, half …

Chinese New Year cocktail: Jasmine Tail

As you may have seen, I’m working my way through a series of classic cocktails every week, but it’s also super fun to make cocktails for all the occasions that pop up on the calendar. It gets me to think about ingredients and mixtures that I might not otherwise get to try. My workplace has been decorated recently for Chinese New Year, and although I’m not doing anything else to mark the holiday, I thought I’d make a cocktail (or three) by way of celebration. I started reading about all the different kinds of cocktails inspired by China and south-east Asia generally, and came to the conclusion that whatever I make has to involve tea. There are various highly complex concoctions out there involving ginger syrups, baiju, peppercorns, yuzu juice, etc, but a tea-based cocktail is a bit more accessible, and I know more about tea than I do about any of the above. If I wasn’t writing about cocktails, I’d probably write about tea instead (and maybe I will?). I used to have a …

Cocktail of the week no.6 : the Boulevardier

My bottle of Campari has been languishing in the kitchen, waiting for warm weather when I feel like it’s time for a Negroni. I think I might have to do a series of Negroni variations – Sbagliato, Americano, a Cheeky Negroni, a Jasmine – but those all seem like spring/summer drinks. So while we wait for the weather to change, here’s a drink that’s often described as a cold-weather Negroni: Campari and sweet vermouth, but with bourbon replacing the gin. The bitterness is still there, but the overall effect is distinctly less crisp. The bourbon adds a sweetness and a honeyed warmth which is just right for the late winter chill. The  combination of Campari and sweet vermouth is such a complex taste, herbal and sophisticated. This article from T, the New York Times magazine, has some great suggestions for tweaks you can make to the cocktail (although they do involve some rather obscure ingredients, unsurprisingly). The Boulevardier was first made by Harry McElhone in Paris in 1927 for his fellow American expat, Erskine Gwynne. Gwynne edited a …